Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I’ve blocked out large swaths of my childhood. There are large, gaping holes in the landscape of my memory, my mind acting as something like a psychological gopher, digging underneath certain places in my memory until the earth falls in beneath them. It’s a coping mechanism I’m sure, one I suppose I will eventually have to confront, but if the things I do remember are any indication, I’m not in any rush to till the land.

I remember one Christmas in particular. I remember the house we lived in. I remember the living room, and the tree standing tall and bright decorated next to the fireplace. I remember waking up early, as children are prone to do on Christmas morning, but laying in my bed terrified that I would get in trouble for waking anyone else up. There’d been a fight the night before after I’d gone to bed. And I didn’t know what I was walking into. I remember realizing, after laying there a time, that I would probably also get in trouble for not waking anyone up; for not pretending everything was great and normal and that I was any other kid with any other family. That my tardiness would delay the rest of the day and that the tension that would result would lay at my feet. I got up quietly, sliding down the side of my high poster bed. I stood outside my parents’ door for a long time, my heart a gong beat in my chest, before quietly entering and whispering as quietly as I could manage for my mom to wake up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

It happens at the times I am usually least on guard for it.

I’m over the most acute of it, the times when it would hit me unexpectedly and I'd have to stop in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat. When I'd need to talk myself through it, remind myself to stay present, in that moment, with this feeling, and and give myself permission to feel as I saw fit right then. I’m past the point where it consumed my days, where it filled every inch of the quiet spaces at night and kept me awake far into the haunting hours. It is no longer sharp, sudden, intense. I felt every pang of that.
Now, it’s the little things, the seemingly innocuous things, wrapped in unexpected melancholy. It’s when I’m putting on my watch in the morning. It’s looking up and realizing I'm walking past a club where we once went, remembering us tipsy, sweaty, in the middle of the floor molded together like art. It’s a song that shuffles on unexpectedly and smells like a summer night. It’s the radio silence in which we exist now and I know it means I can’t share something funny or sad or stressful or beautiful. It's in the memories I still bump into moving around my apartment, the edges still sharper than I prefer.
This is a lesson. And unlike the many other times I have been presented with the opportunity to learn this lesson and turned resolutely and headed in the other direction, I’ve learned it this time. I’ve learned how to bear the full weight of my emotions; to surrender to them and allow them to come. To not always feel bound by the need to be reasonable or graceful or unaffected. To process without drowning. How to allow a feeling to exist without existing for the feeling. How to baptize myself in proverbial emotional waters and emerge renewed, rather than being sucked under. I know that I am not weakened by loving, by losing, in a way that I have not always known. That I can remained unbroken even when I am laid bare. It’s a lesson I needed. That I, someone who tends to run, who tends to avoid, needed to learn.
I just never thought I’d be learning it with him. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Push and Pull

He caught me at a weak moment and he knows it.

I am tired- weary, really- worn down by scaling mountains of work and managing my bad decisions. So when he calls me and says he's in town and coming over and cooking, I know he only does so because he knows I don't have the energy to debate the fact that he's telling me instead of asking me.

He shows up at my door a short time later, short enough to let me know he's been hanging around my neighborhood awhile. He breezes in loaded down with grocery bags and smelling like the cologne I once bought him just because back when we were trying to be We. He smiles at me, that bright, disarming smile I love and he says my name like a song he feared he'd forgotten the melody to.

I smile, taken by the ways I can at once feel drawn to him and yet completely disconnected. I don't say a word.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The phone rings while I'm somewhere between sleeping and waking; I'm not asleep enough to sleep through the ring, but I am asleep enough to be confused by it.

I reach for it blindly in the dark, mumbling a hello into my pillow. 

"You know what I was thinking?"

His voice is so clear and so crisp he could be in my bedroom and not in another city. I recognize it immediately, but I'm still a bit thrown by it not being who I expected it to be.

"When we first met, we'd stay up for hours talking. Til the sun came up. But not even when we first met. We were always that way. Why don't we do that anymore?"
"Because up until a couple months ago we weren't speaking?"
"Besides," I say, finally flipping myself over so I'm not face down in my pillow, "that was back when we thought there would be an us."
"I fucked that up, didn't I?"
"I do miss it though. The way it was in the beginning."

And isn't this the way it always goes? The beginning is all laughs and long talks, unfolding the layers of each other gently. Deep, suffocating gulps of one another, each conversation new and exciting and intoxicating, sunrise be damned. The beginning is when you talk constantly. When you flirt shamelessly. When you listen. 

And then comes everything else.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sister Circle

(It’s likely no coincidence I was finally inspired- after sitting on it for months- to complete this on today, my favorite Libra’s birthday.)
I was once one of those girls. You know the ones. The ones who proudly proclaimed that they had no female friends. That girls “didn’t like” them. That I preferred the friendship of men, that it was inherently- and thus was I by virtue of possessing it- superior.
Oh, how young and dumb I was.
Don’t get me wrong; there is still no small ratio of important positions in my life occupied by men. I adore men, in innocent and not-so-innocent ways. But the fact that I was ever foolish enough to think I could exist without the women in my life makes me cringe. 
I cannot imagine who I’d be, where I’d be, if not for these women who love me, even when I am my most unlovable. Who lift me up and call me to the carpet. Who protect me and encourage me. Who selflessly wrap me in bountiful prayers and encouragement and real talk. 
My male friends love me. And they are wonderful humans. But they do not cradle my head gently in their laps when I have a migraine. They do not bring me food when I can’t get out of bed for days at a time. They do not, cannot know what I feel when I am heartbroken, and they don't pick up a corner of that pain to tuck into the course of their own day so that I don’t have to ache alone. They do not know the communion of sharing our favorite wine and trading sex tips or war stories or chastising bad choices without judgment. They cannot see me, stripped and unvarnished in the depths of my ugliest self and fiercely, lovingly demand I stand up and be beautiful.
These women, my women, my village of magnificent creatures and ferociously beautiful sisters, gird me up on all sides. They stand in my stead when my own strength fails me. They are my safe place, where I go to be my most genuine me and the shelter that protects that tender truth. They inspire me. And they open their lives to me in ways that I did not once deserve, all young and stupid and somehow thinking sisterhood was inconsequential.
Over the last few years we have been through the best and worst that life has to throw at us. We have relocated and fallen in love and gotten married and had babies and lost babies and gotten fired and gotten promoted and had our hearts broken and lost parents and gotten divorced. We’ve bought houses and we’ve travelled and had great sex and taken risks and been changed in awesome and awful ways. Through it all we have remained intact, growing and evolving all while managing to stay a unit. We have laughed and cried and screamed and sat in silence with each other through it all. We are better for it. We are wiser for it. We are stronger for it. We are made whole. 
I am a whole hearted believer in love letters. This one- my favorites, my village, my sisters, my loves- is for you. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Growing Pains

(For Robyn. For me. And for You.)

We've been dream sold about what it means to grow.

All the self-help tomes and personal journey movies would have you think that growth is a thing that happens when you go to a beautiful place and watch a gorgeous sunset, the vastness of the earth’s marvels humbling you, making you feel small, putting your problems in perspective. Or when you hit some milestone birthday. Or when you fall for someone that makes the very edges of your soul dance. There’s a couple tears, sure, but they're silent, glamorous tears cried on lush sheets or in a circle of sister friends.

But here's the real talk of it: growth hurts. It hurts you down to your bones. It makes you weary, and unlike much of the other things in the world that make you weary, it follows you home to your refuge to invade your solitude. It rearranges everything it touches. You're on that beach looking at that sunset because you're scattering the ashes of someone you love. You found someone who makes your soul dance because you once felt the excruciating loss of someone who sang a song your heart will never sing again. And the crying isn’t elegant, restrained crying among your friends; no, your friends are busy trying to keep their own lives strung together with old bubble gum and tape and your tears are big, ugly sobs that reduce you to a trembling mess on a dirty floor in your apartment that becomes another thing to berate yourself about failing at even as you cry yourself dehydrated. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Year of Bad Decisions

I was giving her my usual even tempered, objective advice. And I could tell she didn’t want to hear a single word of it by how intently she was focusing on guzzling her mimosa.
“I mean, I know you’re right,” she tells me, clearly exasperated. “But it doesn’t feel right. I mean, it just doesn’t-“
“It’s not what you wanna do.”
“It is NOT what I wanna do.”
“But that doesn’t make it right.”
“But should I care more about right than I do about what I want?”
“Theoretically. I am not living a theory, La.”
She exhales hard, and it’s my turn to focus on my drink. She and I have these conversations often, her wanting to lean in to her tempestuous nature, and me encouraging her to temper it. Because she tends to fuck things up.
A lot.
“Don’t you ever get tired of it?” She asks me without a hint of accusation or resentment in her voice.
“Being so…together. Controlled. Knowing what to say. Doing the right thing. Being objective. Dealing in logic. Don’t you ever get tired of it?”
It’s my turn to exhale hard and wonder how she knew that I have been having this very conversation with myself.
“Yes,” I reply hesitantly, not sure where she’s going with it. “Yeah, I do. Sometimes.”
“So, why do it?”
“Because I believe it’s the best way to conduct myself.”
“Bullshit. Because it’s the best way you know to control yourself.” I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “Listen, I love this about you. I envy it. Because I can’t operate that way. And we both know the results of that,” she says, alluding back to the latest mess she’s made in her life that brought us to this conversation.
“But don’t you want to just do things? Rather than plotting and planning and organizing and executing. Just feel things sometimes? Rather than think things? Do you ever just feel?”
“Of course I feel things-“
“No, I know you feel things. You’re human. What I mean is, do you ever just give yourself over to what you feel without intellectualizing it to death? What’s the last thing you surrendered to?”
I don’t have an answer for that, and she knows it. She lets the silence linger, sitting back in her chair with a smug smirk as I continue to fidget.
“To be fair,” I counter, “your life isn’t exactly a shining testament to the wonders of feeling.”
“That was a low blow, you bitch.”
“But, true though.”
“Ain’t the point.”
“Making decisions based on facts rather than feelings just makes more sense to me. Feelings change. Facts don’t.”
“That’s true. But then when do you get to feel, La?”
“I feel stuff!”
“No, you don’t. You allow about as much feeling as you think you can handle. And then it’s all about logic.”
“I don’t understand your point.”
“You is a stubborn bitch.”
This is all true, of course. I used to feel a great deal. All the time. All the feelings. And I could barely function. Logic, objectivity, even temperedness became a safe haven for me; a way to for me to communicate clearly and effectively, a means by which to get what I needed. And ultimately, with or without my permission, another way for me to control myself.
But the point is, nobody asked this bitch all that.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dirty 30

I was 25 before I finally admitted how fucking miserable I was. How the years of just surviving, of barely making it, of scraping by, had made me weary down to my bones. How badly the heartbreak had made me equal parts hard and fragile.
The admission itself was hard. It felt like a spectacular failure; a mess of my own making from making bad choices and not practicing self-care. But there I was; 25 and miserable, miles from the people I loved, far from where I wanted to be, heartbroken and tired and working a job I hated that did not stretch me. I was single by choice, leery of letting anyone in, committed to remaining warm and detached. I can’t remember who was in the picture at the time, who I’d compartmentalized into a specific role- lover, companion, arm piece- whether that was the part they wanted to play or not. I do remember random crying fits, long stretches of insomnia, weight gain and hair loss, the pallor of my skin as though the misery had become a second skin I could not peel away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Take the Box

It all goes in the box.

The particular cadence of my name on his tongue. All the years of inside jokes and the steady stream of laughter. The signature curvature of his smile. The music we once traded across the distance. The way he likes his eggs.

It all goes in the box.

The comfortable tangle of my legs around his and his fingers and lips marking large swaths of territory across my bare skin. The dive of his voice after 2am or too many Makers Marks or both. The hours of people watching. And the beer he likes. The songs I've sung. The desire to take up years long study of the majesty of his skin. Pages of prose I wrote because I couldn't say. The hours of dreaming about what a life with him could have been. The messages laced with innuendo. The feelings sheathed in words less intense. The small things I let myself hope in the wee, small hours of the morning. 
The hope at all, really.

That all goes in.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Something is missing.

This is my last thought before I go to sleep. It hangs over the bed, turning the air around it crisp and cool. I toss and turn underneath it all night.

Something is missing.

This is my first thought when I wake up in the morning. My eyelashes have barely left their perch atop my cheeks before the thought rises over the horizon of my brain, sending signals to my limbs to look for this something. My feet hit the carpet and I push the thought away, stumbling to the bathroom, brushing my teeth and splashing my face with water. I have too much to do today.

It stays with me. This thought, this feeling. It feels like a muscle memory, like when you forget to put your watch on in the morning and spend all day looking at the empty spot where your watch should be. I can't put my finger on it, but I feel vaguely unsettled all day, productive but removed, my mind pinging and taking inventory; did I forget to do something? Did I take out food for dinner? Run all my errands? Did I drop the ball on a project at work? Did I lose something?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


As a child, I attended an exclusive private school in a tony suburb of my hometown. There wasn’t much about it I loved. I was one of the single digit population of brown people in a lily white sea of affluence I was entirely unfamiliar with. And a clumsy brown girl with unruly curls, (too black for the black kids trying desperately to be less black and therefore less threatening, not well off enough to for color to not be an issue) there weren’t many places of refuge.

The silver lining was the days my grandma's sky blue Bonneville would inch down the carpool driveway, knowing that her being there meant I'd get to hang out with her until it was time for my daddy to pick me up for his visitation weekend.

We'd sing (or more accurately she'd sing and I'd giggle), her voice full and lovely with just a twinge of smokiness from the cigarettes she smoked. There was a silly song about a bee. And one about a bunny. She'd buy me a coke and weather my insistent questions with patience and humor.

I don't remember when or why she stopped, but I do remember missing her, even as it felt like a betrayal to my mama, to my maternal grandmother, to admit it.

I was in college before I really came to understand what a force my grandma was. A whip smart, steel eyed touchstone that raised five kids after her husband died too young while still managing to build a successful, meaningful career. She is lovely and crass, a combination we both share, and profoundly generous; a trait she has leaned into and I have built fortresses around after the jagged edges of life necessitated it.

My grandma has been retired for all the years I've been alive and the running joke became a kind of game of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” On the rare occasion I came home from school, I was never sure I'd see her, as she spent the vast majority of her time on a plane to somewhere, more than likely to a casino not in the city where we lived. She spent almost thirty years the way you hope you get to spend retirement; traveling and indulging her whims, from gambling her money to painting her nails bright pink. When people shared tales of their aging grandparents- the ebbing sharpness, their losing their ability to see and hear and drive and live alone, eventually moved into a basement bedroom or shuffled off to some nondescript building named after a tree- it was foreign to me. At 86, my grandma was still driving, still traveling all over the country, still going to watch her beloved baseball team, still smoking and drinking Coors Lite, and stubbornly wiggling her jeweled, poppy pink fingers in the face of anyone who asked her when she would slow down.

And then suddenly she wasn't.

I spent my birthday with her this year, by her bedside in a hospital, after she had a stroke. I sat there for hours, watching her swing from consciousness to slumber, repeating the things she couldn't remember she said to me the last time she was awake, but smiling every time she recognized my face.

We talked about nothing. I pretended not to be alarmed at how much weight she'd lost when the nurse came in to change her. I waited patiently while my brilliant grandma struggled to search her muddy brain for basic words. I smiled thinly through the ice sliver of anxiety in my stomach at this familiar scene. I'd been here before and I said to myself what I wasn't brave enough to say to anyone else; I could be about to lose her.

May brought a new job and a move back home, and a vow that I would not make the same mistake with her as I did my maternal grandmother before her.

I go see her as often as I can. I spend hours talking to her and laughing at her, fussing at her stubborn refusal to do the exercises her physical therapist gave her to do. We watch TV. And I wait patiently as her mind spins and whirs, as she plods through sentences she once would have skated over with aplomb. I listen intently to every random recollection, my heart heavy with the responsibility of possibly being the keeper of her memories if her long term memory goes hazy and less sharp around the edges the way her short term memory has. I spent a couple hundred dollars to get her great seats to go to her first baseball game in years. I travelled with her for Thanksgiving to spend with our family, watching her intently even as I mingled, coming when she called and hustling when she needed something.

But it kills me. It kills me. To watch my razor sharp, educator of a grandma struggle for words. To listen patiently as she repeats herself, or call her back repeatedly because she doesn't remember she called me an hour ago. It kills me to watch her wry humor turned inwards on herself. It's awful the way her freedom has been taken from her, suddenly and without warning. Mere months ago, while she might not have been running marathons she was certainly still getting around. It kills me to watch her struggle to take even a couple steps, aided by a walker she can't stand. I hate to hear her apologize or thank me profusely when I have to help her to the bathroom or get dressed, as though she is a burden. It kills me to watch her slip away.

But still I come. I come sit with her and I call and make sure she knows that I love her and that she is more joy than she will ever be a burden, and I tell her she will be ok, and I will be ok and we will all be ok. I tell her how beautiful she is because she is still so lovely, and that I love her, wholly, deeply, as all-consumingly as I did as an awkward little brown girl for whom she was a daily refuge.

And I pray. I pray that she stays healthy and as well as she can be. I selfishly pray that I have many more years with her so she can see me indulge the wanderlust I inherited from her and fall in love the way she was with my grandfather and so she can sing the bunny song to my kids.

She gave me my first prayer rosary way back when, and taught me what saints to pray to and if I was as smart then as life has made me now, I would have guarded it, and her, far more fiercely.